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  Managing Archeological Collections The Future Distance Learning


(photo) Ceramics stored appropriately in an enamaled metal cabinet.
Ceramic storage at Colonial National Historical Park. Photo courtesy of Museum Management Program, National Park Service.

Improvements in and increasing attention to archeological collections management holds considerable promise for the proper and long-term care of our archeological heritage. Significant strides have been made in the last decade, but more are needed still. Good management of archeological collections is essential to maintain their value for scholarship, interpretation, and heritage. You learned here how these resources need to be managed and preserved in order to make them accessible for use. Also, you learned about your responsibilities to these resources, as well as how you can access and use them.

The proper management of archeological collections necessitates cooperative and collaborative relationships between a wide variety of interested parties that should be commonplace and part of everyday work. Good relationships between repository staff (e.g., curators, conservators, collections managers, and archivists) and the principal investigator of an archeological project before, during, and after a project are critical to the long-term care of and access to the resulting collection. It is also important that project staff and repository staff have good relationships with the culture groups whose heritage is tied to archeological remains. This helps ensure that the collections are managed to the benefit of all interested groups. Cooperation and collaboration also has to occur between the government agencies that own a large portion of the archeological resources in the U.S. and the repositories that curate them. Efforts need to be made to ensure that compliance with 36 CFR 79 and related state or local laws benefits the collections, repositories, and agencies.

Both collections management and archeology will continue to change. The opportunities provided by computerized technologies will continue to grow and provide opportunities for viable collections management tools. New scientific methods, techniques, and theoretical paradigms will continue to influence the way archeology and collections management is done. A significant challenge for the future is to keep educating a wide variety of groups about the value of archeological collections, including their associated records, and the need for their long-term preservation. Once damaged or lost, these non-renewable resources are never again available for research, interpretation, or heritage uses. Without this invaluable legacy, why was the archeological work done in the first place?

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